When common sense isn’t! – James 1:2-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 22, 2013 AM
Jack was one of the smartest people I have known. However, while Jack was “book smart” he was pound-foolish. He did not use his knowledge to make himself wise. Ken, on the other hand, while not highly educated, used his godly wisdom to meet life’s challenges and to serve his Lord faithfully. Among God’s good gifts, He provides wisdom to help believers endure trials, resist temptations, and put material things in proper perspective. It is more than common sense it is Godly wisdom.
When people face trials, they may wonder, “How can I handle this situation?” People without wealth may wonder why they have so little. Individuals with great wealth may congratulate themselves on how much they have and concentrate on getting even more. When people face temptations, they may succumb and blame everyone including God. All these thoughts, however, reflect earthly wisdom rather than wisdom from God. People who think like this need to know God offers and generously provides us wisdom when we ask for it. Let’s discover what James teaches us about Godly wisdom…
How do you respond to trials, temptations, or issues regarding material possessions? Often, believers faced with trials, temptations, and issues regarding possessions depend on their own intelligence. Many rely on past experiences, self-help books or seminars, and available resources without asking for God’s wisdom. Believers need to understand they can receive wisdom from God and ask Him for wisdom concerning trials, temptations, and wealth. James stressed that God offers believers wisdom so they can cope with times of trials and testing. James teaches us how…
I. To endure trials! (Vv. 1:2-8)
1. James began by telling them to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds!” He wanted them to regard what he was sharing. His “brothers” in Christ were not to invite trouble but were to value trials when they occurred. Why? James knew that a Christian’s faith is not founded on how we feel or what we may be going through. “Joy” is a deep sense of being held securely in God’s grace no matter what. It is not the emotion of happiness, but the settled gladness of knowing nothing can separate us from God. “Trials” can be translated “temptations” depending on the context. Here, it has the sense of adversities, afflictions, or troubles—problems and difficulties that test a believer’s faith. These difficulties were of many kinds (literally, “many-colored”). Some might be unexpected adversity. However, God can bring something good through our trials. Believers can face testing of their faith with joy because it “develops perseverance.” The word “testing” was used in examining metals to certify their purity. The idea is a faith, which has been tested and then results in a finished product! This is why James reminds us that, “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” God intends believers to be “complete, not lacking anything”. In fact, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Instead of going to the world for answers, we are to go immediately to God! Yet, “when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Receiving wisdom from God hinges on total trust in and commitment to God. The doubter’s commitment constantly wavers between God and self. Such an indecisive, unsettled individual cannot “think he will receive anything from the Lord”. An indecisive believer is “double-minded” or “doubled-souled.” Such a person is completely “unstable in all he does”! Like a drunken, staggering sailor! However, Godly wisdom teaches us to endure trials!
EXAMPLE: Enduring trials does not mean we are to simply put up with them and go on; rather it is an opportunity to grow in Godly wisdom. Having wisdom from God, we can tackle trials and tests with joy because they are opportunities for us to become more mature in our faith walk. On coming to the understanding that we need God’s wisdom, we can request it and be sure He will give it. We are to ask in total commitment, however. Our faith cannot be mixed with the indecision of circumstances or trials we are suffering. Godly wisdom teaches us to endure trials!
James goes on to admonished believers that only their relationship with God, not their wealth, was eternal. Godly wisdom teaches us…
II. “To put material things into proper perspective! (Vv. 1:9-11)
1. James addresses both poor and rich people. He showed wealth could be a problem whether people had nothing, much, or something in between. Regardless of believers’ financial status, their earthly lives and any earthly wealth they have are only temporary. “The brother of humble circumstances” can become bitter and resent what others have. Instead, they are to rejoice in their spiritual wealth as members of God’s family and kingdom. Because God is impartial, all people—regardless of their financial status—stand on equal footing with Him. He values all His children. However, least pride should overtake those who have more materially, James immediately writes, “But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.” Those who are well-off needed to realize their wealth was temporary and perishable. They would wither and die like a “wild flower” in the summer’s heat and leave all their worldly possessions behind. “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” James’ illustration of life and wealth’s transitory nature should give all believers pause. As the day progresses, the sun’s scorching heat evaporates the dew from vegetation. In the same way, as the wealthy feverishly go about their business, they wither away. Riches might accumulate, but life will end. Let me ask you, “How do you view your material possessions? What dangers do they pose for you?” Godly wisdom teaches us to put wealth into proper perspective!
EXAMPLE: When we look to God for wisdom, we can put wealth in its proper perspective. If we have little, He will help us avoid resentment and greed. If we have modest means, He will give us wisdom to manage well what we have. If we possess much, He will keep reminding us to trust in Him and not in what we have. Also, He will urge all of us to share whatever wealth we have with those in need. Remember, Jesus taught both the rich and poor, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it… And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:39, 42 NIV) Godly wisdom teaches us to put material things into proper perspective!
James clarified the source of temptations to sin. He emphatically declared that God never tempts anyone; temptations arise from people’s “own evil desires”. Temptations entertained and accepted lead to sin, which in turn issues in death. Godly wisdom teaches us…
III. To resist worldly temptations! (Vv. 1:13-15)
1. Perhaps, some of these Christians may have blamed God for the temptations they experienced. Perhaps temptations arose because of trials, and people accused God of causing the trials and thus the temptations. James stated emphatically that believers are responsible for any pull to evil, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone!” Temptations to do evil do not arise from God. No pull to evil can touch Him because He has no such human vulnerability. The morally perfect God who is, at heart, a loving Father does not sadistically use temptations to evil to test His people. James squarely placed the responsibility for temptations on the individual, “but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” Temptations arise from within the person but in themselves do not constitute sin. Entertaining temptation, however, can set in motion a tragic process. First, the person is “dragged away and enticed” by his own evil desires. The term is taken from hunting where animals are lured away from their places of safety. It is the idea of being caught by a baited hook or trap—what we mean by the phrase “taking the bait.” A person’s own evil desires, lust, are the lure and bait that ensnare the individual. James then shifted to the metaphor of conception and birth, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Joining one’s will with evil desire produce sin in embryo. If the fetus develops to the point of birth, full-blown sin emerges. Consistently giving in to sin’s attractions leads to spiritual ruin. Let me ask you, “With what temptations do you consistently struggle? What are you doing to overcome them?” Jesus taught, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV) The ungodly world runs after its lusts, we are to resists worldly temptations!
EXAMPLE: Because God is not responsible for our temptations, we can look to Him for wisdom to resist. We all are tempted daily, yet those temptations are not sin. Rather than give prolonged consideration to any temptation, we are to immediately seek God’s help to reject it. Godly wisdom teaches us not to lust for the things of the world but rather to resist worldly temptations!
God is generous and gives only good gifts. James stressed this truth and pointed to future rewards we receive from God as we are faithful. Lastly, James teaches us that to gain Godly wisdom we are…
IV. To acknowledge God’s gifts! (Vv. 1:12, 16-18)
1. Going back to verse 12 James reminds us that, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” The word for blessed means “happy” which is not happiness based on favorable circumstances but the joy God’s people experience as His children and members of His kingdom, the joy of shared life with God. The person whom “perseveres under trial” experiences the joy of a deepening relationship with God. When we have “stood the test” of our trials, we “will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him”! If the term crown refers to the garland that victors in athletic games received, James contrasted the garland that eventually withered to an eternal crown. He emphasized that genuine faith perseveres to the end, when the faithful believer will enter God’s immediate presence. God has promised the imperishable “crown of life” to “those who love Him.” They prove their love by using His wisdom to victoriously endure trials. In verses 16-17, James fondly tells us, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.” He did not want fellow believers to be led astray. God is the source of “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” The gift is free and full. The word perfect also can mean “complete.” God’s spiritual, physical, and emotional provisions for believers are exactly what they need. God does not change, like wavering humans do. He remains constant. His intention for His children is always good. Is your life in Christ a shining example of consistency or one of shifting shadows of sin and doubt? Never forget that, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” The greatest of all God’s gifts is the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. People who respond positively to the gospel become the firstfruits of God. In the Old Testament the Israelites gave the first part of their crops as an offering to God. It acknowledged the whole harvest belonged to God and expressed faith that a greater harvest was to come. James saw Christians as consecrated to God and His firstfruits! Godly wisdom teaches us to acknowledge God’s gifts!
EXAMPLE: We are wise when we recognize God is generous to us and when we give Him credit for all the good things, we enjoy in life. This calls for us to identify all we have received from God and to express gratitude to Him for these gifts. Godly wisdom teaches us to acknowledge God’s gifts!
1. Godly wisdom teaches us to endure trials!
2. Godly wisdom teaches us to put material things into proper perspective!
3. Godly wisdom teaches us to resist worldly temptations!
4. Godly wisdom teaches us to acknowledge God’s gifts!
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